The first thing you notice about Chris Kittrell, the artist behind the album Heather Strange, is that he quite literally stands above the crowd. He's 6-feet-5-inches, and that's without his 5-inch Syro platform boots. At any given party, he's impossible to miss as he towers over the room — blessing everyone in it with his signature style, electric blue locks, and usually some sort of see-through shirt that shows his nipples.
This month, Kittrell is debuting Outsider, the second single from his new solo project. Produced by Christopher Hines and Dave Sitek (the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TV on the Radio, Weezer) the track is instantly classic, with production that prioritizes fun over flourish. Like Kittrell himself, the song oozes dressed-down, queer rocker joy.
As a video, which he released last month, it's an experience. As a song, it's a poolside jam dream. Out sat down with Kittrell to learn a bit more about his inspiration, style, and all things Heather Strange.
The name Heather Strange is fabulously queer. What inspired it?
I wanted to express a different side of myself from my last solo project, Baby Alpaca. Baby Alpaca was a youthful, dream-like chapter, and moving from the chrysalis of that into the no man’s land of Heather Strange was equal parts liberating and horrifying.
I thought about just using my own name, but that didn’t feel right. I wanted something that crystallized the frenetic energy of the time I spent away from music and the human I’ve become in the transition. I wanted a name that leaned toward the feminine. Because I’ve been finding a lot of power in the divine feminine, and I feel we are seeing that in our culture as well. The more I’ve embraced straddling the center, the closer I’ve felt to home within myself, the closer to real freedom.
“Heather” is a name I love, and I always think of Winona Ryder in Heathers. And “Strange” just felt right. I’m also a visual artist, and written out “Heather Strange” was very appealing. There’s an ambiguity to it. It could be an artist, a brand, whatever.
What does being an outsider mean to you? What do you hope people get out of this song?
The funny thing is that everyone identifies in one way or another as an outsider. We’re all trapped in these flesh prisons and fear being misunderstood more than anything. Some pull in, some go outward, but everyone is looking for this deep divine return to something eternal like God or love. And the journey there can be pretty lonely. So, even if someone doesn’t appear to be an outsider, I’m pretty sure if you got to know them 1-on-1, after a bottle of red [wine], you’d get to see that insecurity. It’s entirely human, and in that way I think anyone can get down with the message.
I love how this video turns the trope of "rockstar flanked by hot girls" on its head. Instead, it's just the three of you having a girls' day. What was it like to film this decadent, fun-as-fuck video?
It was quite the full weekend of activities and we left a lot on the cutting room floor. Working with Peter Tomka, the director, was a freeing experience. Together, along with Caity Murphy (a bestie & qween of Santa Ynez), we planned our activities for the weekend in an open style, making room for a lot of spontaneity and improv. The style of the video is very “get twisted and do your thing!” While running multiple cameras (one being the 8mm), we tore through locations in both Santa Ynez and Solvang, CA. We are also all best buds, the other lovely lady being Julia Dunstall, my bestie from NYC. So we were able to just go for it.
I think it's worth noting that you licked a taxidermied deer on the nose... How and why did that happen?
Day drinking and my love for nature. I saw it chilling up there on the wall and then...it just happened!
This isn't your first time releasing music: you performed for years as Baby Alpaca (and quite successfully I might add). What inspired this switch? How is Heather Strange different?
Heather Strange is my angsty wild side. Baby Alpaca was me as an idealized dreamer. As I’ve gone through life and it’s lemons, I felt another voice emerging that I had to express. Not that the voice of Baby Alpaca is gone, just that Heather Strange also has something to say and different experiences to unravel through the lens of music and art.
Hypothetically speaking, if you were invited to perform at the Grammy's tomorrow and had an unlimited budget, what would you wear?
I would design the most overblown, sparkling alien look for myself. I have a background in fashion working with Marc Jacobs and also the Olsen twins at The Row, so designing my own look would feel right. And commissioning a fab mask by Iris Van Herpen would be sick. I love her designs and the work she does with Björk. I just want to be a sparkling transparent alien with that Maserati body. And of course, high heels.
How do you get your hair so blue? Asking for a friend.
I was born with it!
Just kidding, my hair stylist is Emily Raisa. She’s a great friend and always gets me just right. Lots of bleach, lots of blue, lots of conditioner, and lots of love is all it takes.